November 17th has become a bit of a wine holiday in America. Every year, the third Thursday in November means that Beaujolais Nouveau hits wine shop shelves and, to many, this marks the beginning of the holiday season.
In reality, this “event” is much more hype than holiday. In fact, it can be considered the Valentine’s Day of the wine world – an occasion created largely by marketing and advertising. Beaujolais Nouveau is made from Gamay grapes and is sold a few months after harvest, making it the first red wine many of us taste from any given vintage. And while 2005 was a particularly good year for Gamay in France, it’s not a serious or complicated wine. Its flavors are simple and while it has its place (it’s a great wine for turning white wine drinkers into red ones) it really doesn’t deserve all the fanfare.
Long Island has its own super-fresh wine, but it’s not made from Gamay grapes. In fact, it’s not even a red wine. This year Macari Vineyards picked Chardonnay grapes on September 22, the wine made from the grapes was bottled on November 2, and it was released on November 5. The vineyard calls it “Early Wine” and it’s made in the style of young whites in Austria. This makes sense because the wine’s maker, Helmut Gangl, was born there.
The 2005 Early Wine ($13) shows off the exceptional ripeness of this year’s fruit. With a barely perceptible fizz, its aromas include ripe pear, apricot, lemon zest, honey and flowers. The warm, dry growing season shows itself on the palate, however. While the 2004 was lean, super-crisp and refreshing, this vintage is fuller bodied and slightly sweeter. The flavors closely mirror the aromas with the addition of delicious mineral qualities on the longer-than-expected finish, but while somewhat fresh with playful acidity, the residual sugar is apparent without the structure-providing acidity of last year’s bottling. Still, this is an easy-to-drink wine that can be thought of like an off-dry Riesling when pairing with food. Thai, Chinese and Thanksgiving dinner will make good foils.
Completely on the other end of the Chardonnay spectrum is the recently released Macari Vineyards 2002 Reserve Barrel Fermented Chardonnay ($19). Unlike the Early Wine, which was made completely in stainless steel tanks, this richer, more manipulated wine was raised in new oak barrels, giving it completely different character. The nose is dominated by toasty oak aromas accented by butterscotch, roasted apples and citrus. Despite its barrel origins, this isn’t a heavy-handed pour, but the oak influence is obvious. With medium body and respectable acidity it’s a far cry from your typical over-oaked flabby Chardonnay, even if the flavors are a bit diluted until you reach the citrusy finish.
Macari Vineyards’ latest red wine release, the 2003 Cabernet Franc ($24), is a rich medium garnet in the glass and attractively aromatic with scents of black cherry, black plum, nutmeg and allspice. Soft and delicate on the tongue, it delivers juicy cherry, plum and blackberry flavors that evolve with time and are sprinkled with baking spices. Cabernet Franc often plays second fiddle to Merlot on Long Island, but in this case the second fiddle doesn’t mean second rate.
Macari also makes first-rate Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and one of the Island’s best dessert wines – Block E. For more information about Macari Vineyards or its wines, visit www.macariwines.com or call 298-0100.